The Devil Fish of Lake Vermillion

Devil Fish costume.

Devil Fish costume.

A bit of fluff for today. How often do I get to combine my interests in costuming and cryptozoology?  The two come together seamlessly in this account of a devilish “sea serpent” in Minnesota’s Lake Vermillion.



Virginia, July 9. Lake Vermillion’s “sea serpent” has been captured. Three fish spears and a bullet from a rifle brought it to involuntary submission today. All honors to the armed posse that started in its pursuit last night after the monster had terrorized several boatloads of fishermen and women.

Starting the chase in a motor boat, four men discovered an odd commotion in the weeds, a short distance from shore, about a mile from where the “monster” first was sighted by Adolph Bergeson, a Britt farmer.

Maneuvering the boat to within a short distance of the disturbed waters the men found what is really thought to have been the sea serpent. Three harpoons shot out and the rifle barked once.

The threshing about in the weeds increased for a time. Then, with a “heavy-yo,’ all three harpooners pulled together and an eight-foot muskellunge rose to the surface. It was a few seconds though before the verdict of muskellunge was given, as the fish was enshrouded in a devil’s masquerade costume.

The costume was tightly bound around the body of the fish and it was fastened to the weeds. This gave the denizen of the deep the devilish appearance that scared two women into swooning and caused another half dozen to go into hysterics yesterday, as well as frightening a score of men who were fishing near the place where it rose to the surface.

A week ago a masquerade ball was given at the home of one of the lake dwellers. The devil’s costume, unquestionably, was used at the ball. How it came into the lake is not known

The discovery of the true identity of the “sea serpent” was greeted with disappointment on the part of many nearby residents who had visions of wearing belts or pocketbooks made from the hide of the monster.

Those in the launch who captured the fish were Paul Ordway, Glenn Douglas, Peter Benson, John Christopherson and J.F. Hawkinson, owner of the boat.

Duluth [MN] News-Tribune 10 July 1917: p. 5

Muskies are usually 2-4 feet long so an eight-foot muskellunge was truly an anomalous creature or perhaps merely a silly-season fish story. The devil costume was a nice touch, though. Exactly how do you capture an eight-foot monster and dress it up? And I admire the optimism of the locals who thought they would sport accessories made from the “sea serpent” hide.

For a more sinister, genuine devil fish, see this previous post.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.


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